After spending two years working at Nature’s Classroom, a five-day environmental ed program for elementary schools, hosted at an overnight camp, I thought “We could do this.” And by “we”, I meant, Jews. Why not create a program for Jewish day schools, that brought children to camp to spend time in the outdoors, exploring the natural world and learning Jewish traditions and values of environmental stewardship.
I brought my idea to a number of camp directors, and one was crazy enough to let a 25 year old with no administrative experience try to get a program off the ground. A handful of Solomon Schechter schools in New Jersey were crazy enough to sign up for the first season. And a group of staff were crazy enough to drop whatever they were doing to work three weeks at this pioneer program (more than one were good friends of mine, to whom I am eternally grateful.)
Thus was born the Teva Learning Center, which has grown through the contributions of hundreds of fine staff and under Nili Simhai‘s wise and visionary leadership into “North America’s foremost Jewish Environmental Education Institute…(which touches).. the lives of 4,000 participants annually.” Kids who come to Teva get to see a completely different model of Jewish life than exists almost anywhere else in the world – dynamic, alive, creative, a little “out there”…. and it’s super green. I wish it had existed when I was a kid. Fortunately, my carob seeds have borne fruit in only one generation, and in five years, my own daughter’s sixth grade class will heads off to Teva on a big yellow school bus.
And this weekend, I’m attending the Teva staff reunion with the girls. Yay and Shabbat Shalom!